San Diego firm invests $10 million in downtown Bentonville townhouse project

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 627 views 

Construction has begun on the The Tourmaline Urban Lofts located at 501 S.E. D. Street in the Market District of downtown Bentonville. The $10 million development will feature 15 townhouses with a starting price around $550,000. The first homes are expected to completed by the end of this year.

One of the most desirable zip codes for residential development is found in downtown Bentonville where single family housing comes at a premium near $250 per-square foot. That desirability has resulted in a $10 million townhouse project in the city’s Market District.

San Diego-based Picture Red broke ground on the new residential development in downtown Bentonville’s Market District on Thursday (May 19.) The project, Tourmaline Urban Lofts, will feature 15 semi-attached townhouses starting at 2,000 square feet. The development is located at 501 S.E. D. St., in the heart of the city’s Market District which is also home to Fresh Fish Marketplace, Bentonville Brewing Company and the former Kraft Cheese facility which is being renovated into a visual art space. Construction will begin in earnest next week with completion slated for early next year.

The city continues to adjust its residential zoning codes to allow for more residential density as more investors are coming to the area looking for building opportunities. City planners said it’s the first higher density, multiple million residential project to take place in the Market District. The 0.88 acre tract was purchased in mid 2014 for $625,000, according to the county real estate records.

Caitlyn Kelley and Emily Fierer, architects and developers formed Picture Red in 2013 to design and develop sustainable housing projects. Fierer has a friend who grew up in Bentonville and encouraged the design/development team to look at the area for their inaugural project. Kelley relocated to Bentonville about 18 months ago and began studying the downtown plan that sought to expand the excitement beyond the town square in two new districts located to the south and east — Arts and Market. This is the first urban loft project the duo has completed together as they began researching the need and demand for sustainable urban lofts in the transitional Market District.

Fierer, Picture Red CEO, told Talk Business & Politics she and Kelley worked with Troy Galloway, director of planning for the City of Bentonville, to ensure their design would be welcomed by the community. Kelley, chief visionary officer, said the main goal of the project is to create a living environment that inspires those who live there as well as those who travel past it.

Fierer and Kelley are architects who wanted to yield more control over their designs which is why they also became developers. Kelley said she has designed spec homes but often designs can be get modified along the way. She and Fierer wanted to control a project from concept through construction so their sustainable material use and other design characteristics make the final cut. Fiercer said the company used local lenders in connection with this project.

The Tourmaline Urban Lofts will locate next door to the mixed-use Ice House and a stone’s throw from Fresh Fish Market. The Razorback Greenway trail runs next to the development which is less than one mile to the square. Austin-Baggett Park is located in the next block as is the former Kraft Cheese factory being renovated into a new visual and performing arts center for Crystal Bridges.

The lofts are designed to feel spacious with open double-height ceilings and lots of glass on the ground floors to help take in sunlight and the lush garden landscaping being installed into this development. These are not a typical three bedroom home, they have a loft feel with open living rooms and contemporary kitchens, Kelley said. Some of the lofts are three stories and some are two stories. Each loft includes a two car garage area as well as outdoor living space on the second floor outside the master bedroom. There will be common green space and some of the units will also have small yards.

The development includes 7,500 square feet of garden space which will be landscaped with trees bearing fruit and nuts as well as blooms in every season of the year. Kelley said the garden will be edible in a sense which is fun, but it also provides privacy and a lushness to the development. Because the development sits adjacent to a well traveled trail system the aesthetic landscape design can also be enjoyed by those who use the trails which was important to the developers who want to know their work can be enjoyed by the entire community.

The first of the lofts should be completed within eight months and the company plans to release the units for sale as they are completed. Michelle Dearing of Midtown Associates/NWA Realty Group, is the Realtor listing the units. Dearing told Talk Business & Politics that she has been listing and selling homes in and around downtown Bentonville for more than a decade. She said a few years ago she remembers homes selling for $130 a square foot that are now going for $250 a square foot.

“There is more demand than supply. The price gains in downtown Bentonville are demand driven,” she said.

The Tourmaline Urban Lofts will range in price from $550,000 and $600,000 for roughly 2,000 square feet. Dearing said the $275 per square foot is in line with the going rate for new construction close to downtown. She said as land costs have risen in recent years, the only way to make the math work for builders is the add density and construct higher-end homes.

In the case with Tourmaline, Dearing said there really isn’t anything like it in downtown Bentonville. She said the materials used are sustainable and each unit will have 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths and a 2-car garage.

“The developers have maximized the space and their use of landscaping and design is in keeping with the existing neighborhood,” Dearing said. “It’s important that we balance the charm of our community with progress. Progress is important but it’s the charm that makes it a great place to live.”